I’ve spoken to a number of leading companies in the ecommerce arena recently including retail, advertising, investment and travel. Most of the brands, which will go unnamed for reasons of trust and confidentiality, have a strong traditional ‘offline’ brand, well known as being leaders in their industry. However, they share 1 commonality – using their brand strength to drive online revenue, without too much focus on recreating the core brand messaging online.
What’s wrong with this if your company has continued to grow from strength to strength since early 2000? The problem is both of market saturation and losing out to your competitors. Using the stronghold that your brand has on a particular sector to drive online sales, will eventually mean you are losing out on a chunk of online sales of customers that do not know your brand well enough.
A true multi-channel sales approach considers online as more than an end-point and instead uses emarketing as an integral part of your marketing strategy. Consider direct mail; how many of your direct mail customers also receive the same marketing message via email? Which one do you consider most valuable? The DM piece that lands on their doorstep for immediate attention? The email that can be fully tracked from opening to clickthrough? How about using both mediums in tandem, holding back on emailing those that have received DM with a follow up email if they’ve not responded within a certain amount of time? Or perhaps you want to reduce print and distribution costs and encourage more customers to use their emails?
The key here is to think about your website as complimentary to traditonal marketing tools.
So how does this relate to online branding? What I’ve found time and time again is that brands are reaching a point now where they’re finding it difficult to continually grow the online channel, with 2 key elements missing from their websites; brand proposition and user experience.
Brand proposition is the portrayal of your core brand values; who are you? What do you do? Why should I buy from you? Why should I choose you over a competitor? How much? What’s in it for me? Etc etc
With brands driving traffic online through traditional marketing channels and seeing a heavy bias towards brand searches online, they’re not increasing their visibility online and not converting ‘brand virgins’ with their ‘buy from us if you want’ mentality. Sorry guys, this won’t cut the mustard too well these days, in a world of millions of choices and websites. Today, you need to maximise potential conversion of every visitor to your website to stand out against the competition.
User Experience covers your brand, product, marketing, pricing, competition and of course the look and feel of your website, ease of task completion and cohesion of each page to delivering a sale or lead. So much to cover, just where do you start?
You know your brand proposition right? You know your product(s) and you have a website. That’s a great place to start. Next, put yourself into the shoes of your customer and look at the various marketing messages you throw at, sorry deliver to your customers. Does online and offline carry a unified message? Do the designs and branding at least look like they’re from the same company? The place to start is to see things from the perspective of a new customer. Do you ‘get’ the brand and would you have enough information to at least visit the website?
Marketing material is as much a hook into your website as it is a communication channel. That’s why the user experience spans each customer touchpoint before you even consider how well your web delivers the user experience.
There are lots of optimisation techniques to hook potential customers in, but i’l leave that for another article. The next stage is how to give the customer what they want when they visit your website. Now worth pointing out is to appreciate and understand 2 things.
1) your customers expect to be able to find what they want quickly. They are the most important person on your website at that moment in time.
2) your customers don’t always know what they want!
Kinda tough to please everyone? Using a basic understanding of the hunter, tracker, explorer model of user journeys, you should at least cover off 80% of you user’s needs. For the other 20% ensure they can call or email you with ease.
Landing page optimisation is also in itself a key area of study, with numerous techniques and tools at your disposal. However, don’t rely on a one-size fits all design and consider instead at the very least, creating 2 landing pages for your marketing; for new and for repeat visitors. Their likely needs will vary with a number of areas of crossover.
Note: whilst this may not be the case for all businesses, invariably customers do not always type forward slash web addresses in. They simply go directly to the homepage. So if your DM campaign directs people to a dedicated microsite, you may be missing a trick if it is not also accessible via the homepage (an obvious challenge for below the line marketing).
Considering you have created 2 basic journeys into your website, again ask yourself whether you really fulfill the majority of customer needs. This is where an internal brainstorm with your brand/product team or external focus group with potential customers can really make a difference in uncovering hidden gems.
Creating a compelling brand journey doesn’t require a completely new approach to the layout of your website. Instead, incorporating existing collatorol into your key product and sales pages can in itself make a huge difference.
The point I wish to stress is to assume nothing. Once you crack it, your website will not only serve as a fully functional tool for those that already know your brand, but will also become a central platform in driving new business through your brand marketing.
What brand marketing challenges do you face? Get in touch for some advice or feedback.